Thesis Notes

In addition to the running notes I kept while writing my thesis, I'm putting together a fresh set of notes on some of the key papers I referenced. I'll be updating this file as I prep for the oral exam.

Akyol, Z., & Garrison, D. R. (2008). The Development of a Community of Inquiry Over Time in an Online Course: Understanding the Progression and Integration of Social, Cognitive and Teaching Presence. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 12(3-4), 3-22. Retrieved from

This one is pretty cool - looked at changing presences over time. Gave very coarse aggregations over the duration of the course, at 3 points rather than in an ongoing timeline.

Used ANOVA to compare each presence and CoI as a whole at 3 points in the course. Gave a coarse 3-snapshot view of the timeline, but more quantitatively than my timelines...

Social presence:

affective expression decreased significantly while group cohesion increased significantly over the three time periods.

Cognitive presence:

there were no statistically significant changes in the frequencies of the four phases of practical inquiry

Teaching presence:

While there was no significant shift in the categories over time, there was a significant interaction between categories and time. That is, direct instruction contributions rose over the three time segments while facilitating discourse dropped between the first and second time periods.

Akyol, Z., Garrison, D.R., & Ozden, M. (2009). Online and blended communities of inquiry: Exploring the developmental and perceptional differences. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. 10(6). 65-83. Retrieved from http://

Social presence:

There was a higher level of affective communication, mostly found as self disclosure, in the online course.

group cohesion category, which was found to be higher in the blended course than in the online course.

Teaching presence:

The transcript analysis of online discussions did not reveal a significant difference between the two courses in terms of specific teaching presence categories. However, it was found that the students in the blended course had higher perceptions of teaching presence than the students in the online course.

Cognitive presence:

In both learning environments, the students’ level of cognitive presence, as revealed in online discussions, was found to be high, and they perceived cognitive presence to be strong.

Arbaugh, J., Cleveland-Innes, M., Diaz, S., Garrison, D. R., Ice, P., Richardson, J., & Swan, K. (2008). Developing a community of inquiry instrument: Testing a measure of the Community of Inquiry framework using a multi-institutional sample. Internet and Higher Education, 11(3-4), 133-136. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2008.06.003

this is the paper that introduced the Community of Inquiry survey. kind of important...

Why a survey, in addition (or in place of) content analysis?

This exploratory, interpretivist approach certainly has shown to be fruitful, but it may be time to move from a descriptive to an inferential approach to studying online communities of inquiry. This would permit large studies of online and blended learning across institutions and disciplines. For this to happen we need to develop a structurally valid and psychometrically sound survey instrument with the potential to expand the study of online and blended learning. Such an instrument would also provide the means to study the structure of each of the presences and their inter-relationships.

DN: although the survey could be used to quantify presences in absense of content analysis, I used it strictly for descriptive purposes in addition to the content analysis (which provided the core of the CoI presence data)

Arbough, J., Bangert, A., & Cleveland-Innes, M. (2010). Subject matter effects and the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework: An exploratory study. The Internet and Higher Education, 13(1). 37-44. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2009.10.006

Given the importance of knowledge dissemination from the content expert in hard disciplines, it is reasonable to expect that direct instruction would be particularly important in such courses. Conversely, soft applied disciplines may warrant a higher emphasis on facilitating discourse due to the more free-ranging nature of knowledge development. This free-ranging nature of knowledge construction may explain why topics with less defined parameters such as business literature and ethics may have scored higher on teaching presence than did those more clearly defined disciplines in the school B sample. It is also possible that since social presence depends more and more directly upon the learners to a greater extent than do the other two presences, social presence may not lend itself to discipline-based differences to the extent of the other two elements.

Garrison, D.R. (2000). Theoretical Challenges for Distance Education in the 21st Century: A Shift from Structural to Transactional Issues. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 1(1). Retrieved from

the 21st century represents the postindustrial era where transactional issues (i.e., teaching and learning) will predominate over structural constraints (i.e., geographical distance).

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105. Retrieved from

The model of this Community of Inquiry assumes that learning occurs within the Community through the interaction of three core elements. Fig. 1 shows the three essential elements: cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence.

Cognitive Presence: ability to construct meaning through sustained communication.

Social Presence: ability to project their personal characteristics into the community, thereby presenting themselves to the other participants as "real people."

Teaching Presence: may be performed by any one participant in a Community of Inquiry.

ONE: The design of the educational experience. This includes the selection, organization, and primary presentation of course content, as well as the design and development of learning activities and assessment.

TWO: Facilitation is a responsibility that may be shared among the teacher and some or all of the other participants or students.

impact of a shift from spoken language to written language as the central mode of communication in the educational process

written communication might be termed a lean medium, in that much of the information that creates and sustains the group dynamic of face-to-face groups is simply not transmitted.

text-based communication provides time for reflection --> making it more useful for cognitive learning

on Social Presence:

Reaching beyond transmission of information and establishing a collaborative community of inquiry is essential

Social presence marks a qualitative difference between a collaborative community of inquiry and a simple process of downloading information.

On Teaching Presence:

The management of the computer conference provides a number of ways by which the teacher can influence the development of cognitive and social presence. These include regulation of the amount of content covered, use of an effective moderation style in discussions, determining group size, understanding and capitalizing on the medium of communication, and making supplemental use of face-to-face sessions.

DN --> so, teaching presence can impact cognitive and social presences, by shaping the context of the interactions

Social presence:

  • emotional expression - emoticons, autobiographical narratives
  • open communication - risk-free expression, acknowledging others, being encouraging
  • group cohesion - encouraging collaboration, helping, and supporting

Cognitive presence:

  • triggering event - recognizing the problem, a sense of puzzlement
  • exploration - information exchange, discussion of ambiguities
  • integration - connecting ideas, create solutions
  • resolution - vicariously apply new ideas, critically assess solutions

Teaching presence:

  • instructional management - structuring content, setting discussion topics, establishing discussion groups
  • building understanding - sharing personal meaning/values, expressing agreement, seeking consensus
  • direct instruction - focusing and pacing discussion, answering questions, diagnosing misconceptions, summarizing learning outcomes or issues

Garrison, D.R., Cleveland-Innes, M., Koole, M. & Kappelman, J. (2006). Revisiting methodological issues in transcript analysis: Negotiated coding and reliability. The Internet and Higher Education, 9(1), 1-8. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2005.11.001

coding validity: Coding schemes must be both effective from a reliability perspective and efficient from a resource perspective.

on the message as the unit of coding:

It may be challenging to accurately determine the intent of the message in a single sentence not to mention the amount of coding that would be required to code each sentence.

DN: I used the message as the unit, to be consistent, but applied multiple codes per message in an attempt to increase fidelity of coding.

DN: Garrison argues that messages should be coded, but instructors should limit students to 1-2 paragraphs per paragraph. How is that different than coding at the paragraph level, but with additional instructor intervention?

On negotiated coding approach (which I used for the validation portion of the study):

In a negotiated approach, the researchers code the transcripts, and then actively discuss their respective codes with an aim to arrive at a final version in which most, if not all, coded messages have been brought into alignment. It provides a means of hands-on training, coding scheme refinement, and thereby, may increase reliability. The coders gain a new point of reference from which to view the messages as well as the coding scheme. Another advantage of negotiated coding is that it controls for simple errors brought on by inexperience, coder-saturation or misinterpretation. It may also be the approach of choice in exploratory research where new insights are the primary focus.

Garrison, D.R. (2007). Online community of inquiry review: Social, cognitive, and teaching presence issues. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 11(1), 61-72. Retrieved from

On Social Presence: (noted separately by Swan and Vaughan)

social presence and how it needs to shift as a course of study evolves. As valuable as it is to establish effective communication and developing social bonds, it is essential that the group feels secure to communicate openly and coalesces around a common goal or purpose for a community to sustain itself [2]. Social presence must move beyond simply establishing socio-emotional presence and personal relationships. Cohesion requires intellectual focus (i.e., open and purposeful communication) and respect.

social presence should not be measured simply in terms of the quantity of interaction it engenders. The purpose of social presence in an educational context is to create the conditions for inquiry and quality interaction (reflective and threaded discussions) in order to collaboratively achieve worthwhile educational goals. While effective communication may be important, it is not sufficient for educational purposes.

On Cognitive Presence:

well designed tasks are also important to see evidence of resolution in a community of inquiry.

A supporting explanation and reason why discussions may get stalled at the exploration phase is found in the group dynamics literature. The group dynamics literature has shown that groups do not easily progress to the “performing” stage. Participants need to connect to the group and collaborative decision making proceeds along four hypothesized stages—forming, norming, storming, and performing

On Teaching Presence:

Interaction and discourse plays a key role in higher-order learning but not without structure (design) and leadership (facilitation and direction).

Gorsky, P., Caspi, A., Antonovsky, A., Blau, I., & Mansur, A. (2010). The relationship between academic discipline and dialogic behavior in open university course forums. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 11(2), 49-72. Retrieved from

  • Instructors in the composite science forums wrote twice as many messages as did their counterparts in the humanities.
  • Science students wrote about 50% more messages than their counterparts in the humanities.
Gorsky's CoI data on hard vs. soft courses:
DisciplineCognitive PresenceTeaching PresenceSocial Presence
Exact sciences24.09%18.27%57.63%
My CoI data, WordPress vs. Blackbaord:
PlatformCognitive PresenceTeaching PresenceSocial Presence

I saw Social Presence as the highest contributor, but not as severely as Gorsky et al saw (and it was basically flat for WordPress posts...)

Ice, P., Gibson, A. M., Boston, W., & Becher, D. (2011). An Exploration of Differences Between Community of Inquiry Indicators in Low and High Disenrollment Online Courses. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 15(2), 44-69.

97% of variance for the low disenrollment group was accounted for by two items:

  1. The instructor clearly communicated important course topics;
  2. I felt motivated to explore content related questions.

DN: so... when an instructor communicates clearly and students feel motivated, they're more likely to stay in a course. groundbreaking stuff.

for high disenrollment, variance mostly composed of 2 items:

  1. The instructor was helpful in guiding the class towards understanding course topics in a way that helped me clarify my thinking;
  2. Reflection on course content and discussions helped me understand fundamental concepts in this class.

self efficacy may play a large role in students ability to effectively engage in learning communities

Rourke, L., Anderson, T., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (1999). Assessing Social Presence In Asynchronous Text-based Computer Conferencing. Journal of Distance Education, 14(2), 50-71. Retrieved from

they analyzed 2 transcripts for social presence indications. found lots. had very high inter-rater reliability. so, coding social presence is a totally doable thing. huzzah!

further work needed to figure out relative weighting of the 12 social presence indications they used - likely they won't continue to be evenly weighted...

Rourke, L., Anderson, T., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2001). Methodological issues in the content analysis of computer conference transcripts. International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, 12(1), 8-22. Retrieved from

looked at methodologies for "quantitative content analysis"

mentions several software packages to help (Atlas/ti, NUD*IST, HyperQual) - but I wound up doing it in Excel and brute-forcing things for consistency and control.

Why care about more rigorous content analysis?:

Not all of the original hyperbolic claims for the benefits of computer conferencing have been empirically tested. Does asynchronous communication really foster more reflective and careful response composition? Does text-based communication actually lead to more articulate presentation of arguments? If these claims are supported, then experimental designs will play an important role in defining exactly how to facilitate this potential. To answer these increasingly important questions being asked about the use of computer conferencing in higher education, we need to undertake rigorous and systematic research studies.

Rovai, A. (2002). Development of an instrument to measure classroom community. The Internet and Higher Education. 5(4), 197-211. doi:10.1016/S1096-7516(02)00102-1

Community - members of strong classroom communities have feelings of connectedness

Distance education and community

methodology - 375 students in 28 online courses

Subscales - Connectedness and Learning

Comparison with my survey data:

Rovai's Connectedness subscale slightly higher, Learning subscale slightly lower. overall slightly higher

Rovai, A., & Jordan, H. (2004). Blended Learning and Sense of Community: A Comparative Analysis with Traditional and Fully Online Graduate Courses. The International Review of Research In Open And Distance Learning. 5(2). Retrieved from index.php/irrodl/article/view/192/274

online courses place higher demands on students to be proficient in online tools (duh) and this may leave some students feeling isolated. (this was not seen in my study)

Shea, P., Pickett, A., & Pelz, W. (2003). A follow-up investigation of “teaching presence” in the SUNY Learning Network. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(2), 61-80. Retrieved from

Slightly different take on community, but maps directly onto the CoI presences.

results of study "lend support for the central role of instructional design and organization in effective online learning environments design."

Swan, K., Shea, P., Richardson, J., Ice, P., Garrison, D. R., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Arbaugh, J. B. (2008). Validating a measurement tool of presence in online communities of inquiry. E-Mentor, 2(24), 1-12. Retrieved from

The instrument used in this study provides a reliable measure for the existence of a community of inquiry in online learning environments.

so the CoI survey is meaningful. game on.

Top, E. (2011). Blogging as a social medium in undergraduate courses: Sense of community best predictor of perceived learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 15(1), 24-28. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.02.001

looks at the correlation between sense of community and perceived learning.

the results of this study approved blogging as social media for learning about yourself and developing interactive connections with others.

Vaughan, N., & Garrison, D. R. (2005). Creating cognitive presence in a blended faculty development community. The Internet and Higher Education, 8(1), 1-12. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2004.11.001

CoI study. Did coding analysis of a bunch of participants. found:

it can be concluded from the results reported here that blended learning was successful in supporting a faculty development community of inquiry.

Xin, C. (2012). A Critique of the Community of Inquiry Framework. The Journal of Distance Education, 26(1). Retrieved from

CoI presences are analytical constructs, applied to a contimuum of communication (like names of colours in a spectrum, mapped to frequencies of light...)

Messages inherently contain more than one presence - the act of responding can be social, even if the message itself is cognitive or teaching.

DN: This is why I coded messages with multiple presences - to try to capture a higher fidelity analysis of the message, more closely resembling the continuum.

Social Presence:

The three categories of social presence also confuse action with outcome. Affective expressions are communicative actions that can cause certain effects. Open communication and group cohesion are not actions but positive effects or outcomes of successful forum management. Putting the three together confuses cause (what one does) and effect (what the action leads to) and obscures what a participant should (or should not) do online in order to achieve the desired state of affairs

Teaching Presence:

The highly context-dependent nature of online discussion also explains why facilitation is not just instructional, or social, or intellectual; it is often all of them simultaneously. Process and content are intertwined at the communicative level. Teaching presence both sustains the social relations of communication and advances understanding of the subject matter at hand

Methodological implications:

Depending on the context, an expression (e.g., a sentence, a paragraph, or a post) may have to be coded under multiple functions (social, pedagogical, and intellectual). This is because often one function is performed implicitly in the course of an explicit performance of another function. Therefore the researcher must be prepared to enter into the details of the discussions and to understand the issues involved in order to identify the intertwined performances that support ongoing dialogue.